Toddlers, you are not a candy bar. But according to a study presented yesterday at Nutrition 2018, the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting, 99 percent of you, ages 19 to 23 months, have added sugar. That is, added sugar is in your diets, an average of 7.1 teaspoons a day. That is more than many candy bars. If you are what you eat, then you are a candy bar and more.
By the way, added sugar is sugar that doesn’t naturally occur in a food item but is instead added, hence the name. Otherwise, it would be “not added sugar.”
In fact, if you are are a 19 to 23 month old toddler, you likely already have a lot of experience with added sugar. You have been downing this stuff for a while, based on this study, presented at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center (the site of this year’s annual meeting) by Kirsten Herrick, PhD from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found that a majority (61%) of infants (you know way back when you were 6 to 11 months old) already had added sugar in their diets with average daily consumption being 0.9 teaspoons. Oh, and your sugar consumption may have jumped once you hit the big 1. Nearly all (98%) of younger toddlers (ages 12 to 18 months) were downing added sugar (an average of 5.5 teaspoons a day).
This much sugar is not sweet for you. Sorry, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) don’t include “added sugar” recommendations for you (or anyone under 2 years of age). However, if you are getting 7.1 teaspoons of added sugars a day, that exceeds the recommended 6 teaspoon daily limit for older children (age 2 to 19 years) and adult women. The recommended limit for adult men is 9 teaspoons. The limit is the same for adult men who behave like children.
Too much sugar is not good for you. You may have lived this long without problems, but life will take many twists and turns over the next few months and years. Excess sugar can contribute to various childhood health problems such as obesity and cavities in teeth and later to major health issues such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Heck these days some kids at the ripe old age of 10 years old are getting type 2 diabetes as the CDC indicates. Plus, if you are getting too much sugar now, you may get used to it and crave even more later.
The study involved analyzing data on 806 infants and toddlers (6 months to 23 months of age) who were part of the 2011-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which surveyed a representative sample of the U.S. population. Of course, to gauge their eating habits, the infants and toddlers probably did not answer the surveys themselves. That would have been a mess. (Sorry toddlers for the lack of confidence in you.) Instead, parents recorded every item that went into their children’s mouths (and did not immediately come back out of their mouths) over a 24-hour period. The researchers then estimated the amount of added sugars (not counting “not added sugars” or artificial zero-calorie sweeteners) that would have been in these items.